Lance Stephenson was told by Pacers president Larry Bird to knock it off with the non-basketball antics in ad vance of Game 6, but perhaps sensing just how desperate his team’s situation was, Stephenson simply couldn’t help himself.
In addition to committing a flagrant foul on Norris Cole that could have easily been an ejection because of the shot to Cole’s head, Stephenson went up and tapped LeBron James in the face during a dead ball situation, with the obvious intent of trying to cause his opponent to snap.
But just as he did during the ear blowing incident in the previous game, James managed to somehow contain his reaction.
“I don’t know,” James said afterward, when asked how he was able to keep his composure. “I have no idea how I restrained. I don’t know, I guess I just understand what the bigger picture is.
“It was uncalled for, for sure,” James continued. “That was — I don’t know. I’m at a loss of words with that, but it was uncalled for, and I was able to move on from it. I let him know how I felt.”
Udonis Haslem also let Stephenson know how he felt, but with the game so far out of hand, thankfully it never came to that.
Pacers head coach Frank Vogel condemned Stephenson’s actions as being detrimental to the overall effort, saying that “it’s never good to tug on Superman’s cape.”
The Pacers have a big decision to make where Stephenson is concerned this summer. They don’t have the cap space to easily replace his skill set, but there’s no question that the way he’s performed this postseason has made it tough to justify bringing him back on a long-term deal with a large amount of guaranteed dollars attached.